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What are the tools that every DIY'er should have? This is a community wiki as there is no one right answer.

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77 Answers 77

A cordless drill
No doubt about it. I bought a DeWalt 14.4V three years ago, and it's been invaluable to me. alt text

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Why cordless? I'm assuming your home has outlets? –  Joe Philllips Jul 21 '10 at 19:45
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@Joe - everything is easier with a cordless drill. I have a very nice corded drill and I probably use it twice a year. The cordless one I use all the time. –  Eric Petroelje Jul 21 '10 at 19:46
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Cordless is nice, but I never get much use out of them. Since I work only intermittently on DIY projects I find the batteries brick out on me after only getting to use them 2-3 times. –  JohnFx Jul 21 '10 at 19:47
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My Dewalt 14v cordless sits around for months at a time and still holds a charge. It's a beast. –  Adam Robinson Jul 21 '10 at 19:48
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LOL! That just begs for a link to this: joke-archives.com/dating/mengifts.html –  Vilx- Aug 8 '10 at 6:47
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A good weight crowbar
Use it for lifting, prying, removing, bashing, demolishing and most importantly, against zombies and headcrabs.

Crowbar vs Headcrab

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+1 just for the Halflife reference, though it's headcrabs. –  Adam Robinson Jul 22 '10 at 12:06
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I prefer a Fubar, purely for the name :) homedepot.com/h_d1/N-5yc1vZ1xgg/R-100488979/h_d2/… –  ManiacZX Jul 28 '10 at 14:42
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I can't help but wonder if this is so high in vote counts just because of the Half-Life reference. –  Doresoom Nov 18 '10 at 13:29
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A good, stiff measuring tape

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Measure once, cut twice! –  Joe Philllips Jul 21 '10 at 20:28
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@Joe, something's off about that... :-) –  Mike Sherov Jul 21 '10 at 20:39
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Measure twice, cut once, swear thrice! –  Ates Goral Jul 22 '10 at 7:36
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Utility Knife

For about $10-15 USD you can get 100 utility knife blades, so you don't have to worry about sharpening your knife/breaking the blade (except your eyes of course!).

I use mine for all sorts of stuff.

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A first aid kit

...that is easy to find!

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...and can be used with one hand –  Adam Robinson Jul 22 '10 at 12:07
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Nah, masking tape is all you need. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jul 28 '10 at 18:44
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Super glue will hold way better than masking tape! –  Doresoom Jul 29 '10 at 21:10
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A multimeter

a multimeter (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license)

(Image licensed under the Creative Commons)

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Typically referred to as a Multi-meter. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 24 '10 at 3:27
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I'm giving this a downvote. I don't think every DIYer needs one of these. I have no idea what one of these even does. –  SamtheBrand Mar 27 '12 at 17:26
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Needle-nose pliers

enter image description here

These are the most often used tool in my toolbox, not that they ever make it back into the toolbox.

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My wife has requisitioned a few pairs over the years as weed pullers for the yard. Nothing like finding my pliers caked with dirt... thanks, dear! –  Jared Harley Jul 28 '10 at 22:06
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I'm sure she says the same thing about her good fabric scissors when she finds you've been using them for home improvement tasks, Jared ;) –  Wayne Werner Aug 5 '10 at 15:31
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Speed square

alt text

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@Portman: It's like a protractor for DIY projects/construction in general. –  Doresoom Aug 3 '10 at 19:21
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Hammers and screwdrivers.

You aren't going to get much done without them...

A good jigsaw can be very helpful for many tasks as well.

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@Joe Phillips - given your name, I assume you were fishing for a specific kind of screwdriver.... I have made do with one simple claw hammer for years now. Screwdrivers really should be bought in bulk, I seem to lose/break them a lot. –  Josh Goldshlag Jul 21 '10 at 19:56
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Locking pliers
Commonly known by the genericised trademark "Vise-Grip"

enter image description here

I find that I use it one way or another on every project I do.

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A power miter saw (compound if possible).

It will cut anything you'd cut with a circular saw (other than large sheets), and you'll also be able to cut any trim pieces you'll ever need. Adding and replacing trim is a relatively easy thing to do and can quickly add value and better the appearance of a house. Few things come as close the a bang-for-the-buck arena.

alt text

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This is next on my wish list... –  Doresoom Jul 21 '10 at 21:15
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Sure it's on the must-have-list, but as a replacement for a circular saw? That's just crazytalk. The two saws have totally different uses. –  Commander Keen Oct 6 '10 at 12:33
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Non-Contact Voltage Tester.
This comes in very handy to make sure you turned off the correct circuit breaker before doing any electrical work. And really helps if you have some funky wiring in your house and not everything in a single box is on the same circuit.

Non-Contact Voltage Tester

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Or even just checking to see if there's an electrical cable inside the wall where you're getting ready to drill... –  Jared Harley Jul 28 '10 at 22:08
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Screwdriver set

screwdrivers

Your exact types will differ by country, but you likely want:

  • Slot-head (2 or 3 sizes)
  • Phillips (atleast size #3, maybe #2 and #4)
  • Robertson (atleast red, green, and black)

Rubber handles will save your hands after a bit of use. Also, try to find black tipped drivers, as this means they're hardened and shouldn't wear down as quickly.

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Set of standard and metric allen keys.

alt text

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Frankly, I've never had a job where I needed an allan wrench that didn't come with one. I have a drawer full of these from buying cheap furniture. –  JohnFx Jul 21 '10 at 22:12
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The cheap ones that come with Ikea furniture slip and get rounded too easily. They are also too short to be comfortable. I am glad I have one that is longer and of better-quality steel. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jul 22 '10 at 19:15
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These seem to be useful for grinding down into other, more useful, tools –  Joe Philllips Jul 22 '10 at 21:41
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Quick clamps.

alt text

about a million times better than these:

alt text

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A reciprocating saw (a.ka. sawzall) -

  1. Makes short work of any tearout job.
  2. Gets into places that other saws can't.
  3. Great stand-in for a chainsaw outside (for small stuff)
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A poor man's version would be a jab saw - I picked one up for $10 or so when I needed to put a junction box in my ceiling. –  Doresoom Jul 22 '10 at 15:05
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A circular saw of course.

And don't skimp - you'll use it enough that it's worthwhile to spend the money and get a decent (and light) one.

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@msemack - I would agree. I have a 10" sliding compound miter saw that I use FAR more than my circular saw. But a good miter saw is big and expensive. A circular saw has more utility than a miter saw, and is much cheaper and smaller (easier to store). The disadvantage of the circular saw is speed and accuracy. Much easier and faster to make nice cuts with a miter saw. –  Eric Petroelje Aug 4 '10 at 15:25
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A good set of channel lock pliers (multiple sizes).

Use them on almost every job, especially plumbing.

alt text

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And never buy just one - especially for plumbing. Seems like if you need one you always need two (one to turn something and the other to keep the opposite side from turning) –  Eric Petroelje Jul 21 '10 at 22:20
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5-in-1 Tool:

5-in-1 Tool

Great for scraping, pealing, poking. I use it all the time (and it is stronger than a putty knife).

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So that's what that half round is for! I rather like mine, and I found it on the road so that was an even better deal ;) –  Wayne Werner Jul 23 '10 at 20:38
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Is the half round for cleaning off a paint roller? –  dotjoe Aug 5 '10 at 13:48
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That is what I have used the half round for... cleaning paint off a roller... but I bet there are other uses too! –  Jeff Widmer Aug 5 '10 at 13:58
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A dremel with various bits: cut-off wheel, stone, sandpaper, polisher, etc.

alt text

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Just heed the warning sticker about "...not for home dental use." Unfortunately, I have a friend who actually used one to buff a chipped tooth D-8 –  Jay Sep 6 '10 at 20:59
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Complete socket wrench set for 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" drives and box/closed end wrenches. Should include shallow and deep sockets. Places like Sears will carry an affordable portable fitted toolbox with all the sockets and wrenches.

alt text

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more for fixing cars then normal DIY –  Walker Jul 22 '10 at 8:36
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There are plenty of hex bolts around the house that need sockets and wrenches: Decks use lag bolts and carriage bolts. Some water and gas line fittings need box end wrenches (sometimes an adjustible wrench won't cut it). etc. –  spoulson Jul 22 '10 at 14:21
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Use case: Toilet base bolts diy.stackexchange.com/questions/279/… –  spoulson Jul 22 '10 at 15:51
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Image is overkill - a couple of adjustable ones have done all I need around the house so far... –  MGOwen Jul 29 '10 at 5:40
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Yes, 12 point sockets are typically for engine building and specialty. Emphasis is on obtaining 6 point sockets. –  spoulson Sep 29 '10 at 11:56
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Rubber mallet - good for things where a hammer will just dent things - also good for adjusting things with taps.

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Fire extingusher

I have something similar to this Kiddie Single-use from Home Depot because of its ABC rating:

Suitable for use on Class A (trash, wood, & paper), Class B (liquids & gases) and Class C fires (energized electrical equipment). The Full Home unit is fitted with a pressure gauge that provides at-a-glance status, is manufactured from lightwieght aluminum and a tough nylon valve assembly.

  • Mult-Purpose Dry Chemical
  • UL Listed / Rated 1-A, 10-B:C
  • Suitable for use on most common fires

Better to have it and not need it!

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A Block Plane

Fits in a toolbelt or toolbox. Comes out every time something almost fits. Saves eight million trips back to the table saw. Handles simple rounding and shaping.

alt text

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I'm surprised no one has mentioned them but I think a good set of chisels are invaluable. Any time you're working with wood, a sharp set of chisels can be the key to getting a good fit and finish.

alt text

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Safety Glasses

alt text

Not really a "tool" per se, but one thing I ALWAYS and is stress ALWAYS make sure I have in my tool box and wear all the time.

Had a friend that got metal in his eye and had to have the metal drilled out, creeped me out so much that I now wear safety glasses anytime I do any kind of work around the house.

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It took a trip to the emergency room (brake cleaner blowback) to cure me of "I don't need no stinkin' sissy eyewear"-syndrome forever. I'm so very lucky I didn't blind myself, and I'm never taking chances. Also, hearing protection, gloves and appropriate shoes :) –  BryanH Jul 14 '12 at 2:17
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A good-quality stud finder

alt text

See also: What should I look for when choosing a stud finder?

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how does one identify a good stud finder? I have two and neither are that great at finding studs. tapping on the walls is usually more effective. –  mmccoo Jul 21 '10 at 20:00
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Yeah, can someone recommend a specific model of stud find that performs well? I have tried a few and they are pretty in-exact. –  msemack Jul 23 '10 at 15:06
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i've bought about a dozen stud finders in my lifetime. in my experience, zircon stud finders are the most reliable, consistent and accurate. the big home improvement places usually carry 2-4 different kinds. make sure to buy one that has an LCD display to show you the strength of the reflected signal. –  longneck Jul 28 '10 at 14:19
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xkcd.com/952 –  Doresoom Sep 16 '11 at 16:38
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A small pancake compressor. You can easily borrow / rent the tools, but having the compressor for so many jobs comes in handy. Can also be used without a tool to blow stuff off, fill tires, etc.

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I have a cheap $40-60 Harbor Freight 3 gallon oil-free compressor. I think I've probably used that more than any other single tool I've purchased - I fill tires, exercise balls, drive my nail/staple guns, airbrush... it's quite excellent! –  Wayne Werner Jul 23 '10 at 3:44
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A Good Multi-tool

enter image description here

My personal favourite tool was my Gerber - though I know some people also like/prefer Leathermans. This is one thing where going cheap is not worth it. Anything Gerber, -Leatherman, -SOG, or any other quality tool brand really shines when compared with a cheap $10 variety. Seriously - save up for a few months and buy a good one. You'll be very glad you did.

I used mine almost daily until I lost it :'(

I'm saving up for a new one :D

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Multitools are useful because once you're up the ladder/stuck in the crawlspace, there's always that one extra tool you didn't bring with you. Sure, the screwdriver might suck, but at least it's there. –  Alex Feinman Jul 28 '10 at 21:09
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I routinely cut down 1-3 inch thick trees/weeds with the mini-saw on my leatherman. –  Yitzchak Jun 10 '12 at 15:31
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